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Effingham, Illinois

Former Effingham County Courthouse
Motto: "Crossroads of Opportunity"
Nickname: x
Country United States
State Illinois
County Effingham
Municipality City
Elevation 590 ft (180 m)
Area 9.92 sq mi (26 km2)
 - land 9.86 sq mi (26 km2)
 - water 0.06 sq mi (0 km2)
Population 12,328 (2010)
Density 1,428.9 / sq mi (552 / km2)
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 62401
Area code 217
FIPS code 17-22736
GNIS ID 2394628
Location of Effingham within Illinois
Wikimedia Commons:

Effingham is a city in and the county seat of Effingham County, Illinois, United States. The population was 12,328 at the 2010 census.

The city bills itself as "The Crossroads of Opportunity" because of its location at the intersection of two major Interstate highways: I-57 running from Chicago to Miner, Missouri, and I-70 running from Utah to Maryland. It also is served by U.S. Route 45, which runs from Ontonagon, Michigan to Mobile, Alabama, U.S. Route 40, the historic National Road, which stretches from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois, and Illinois Route 33 and Illinois Route 32 also run through the city. It is also a major railroad junction, the crossing of the Illinois Central main line from Chicago to Memphis with the Pennsylvania Railroad line from Indianapolis to St. Louis. Thus, Effingham has a broad range of restaurants, lodging, and shopping facilities.


  • Geography 1
  • Demographics 2
  • History 3
  • Rail transportation 4
  • Education 5
  • Monument 6
  • Notable people 7
  • In popular culture 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Effingham is located at (39.120903, −88.545909).[1]

According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 9.92 square miles (25.7 km2), of which 9.86 square miles (25.5 km2) (or 99.40%) is land and 0.06 square miles (0.16 km2) (or 0.60%) is water.[2]


As of the 2000 United States Census,[5] there were 12,384 people, 5,330 households, and 3,187 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,428.9 people per square mile (551.5/km²). There were 5,660 housing units at an average density of 653.0 per square mile (252.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.79% White, 0.36% African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.59% Asian, 0.38% from other races, and 0.69% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.04% of the population.

There were 5,330 households out of which 29.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.0% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.2% were non-families. 36.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 18.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 89.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,761, and the median income for a family was $45,902. Males had a median income of $31,442 versus $21,543 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,132. About 6.5% of families and 9.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.9% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.


Effingham was first settled in 1814, and was known from then until 1859 as Broughton.[6]

On April 5, 1949, St. Anthony's hospital caught fire and burned to the ground, killing 74 people.[7] As a result, fire codes nationwide were improved. Due to extensive media coverage, including a "Life Magazine" cover story,[8] donations for rebuilding the hospital came from all 48 states and several foreign countries.

Rail transportation

Effingham is also historically important as a rail junction. The old Pennsylvania Railroad and the former Illinois Central Railroad crossed in downtown Effingham. Even today, Amtrak's City of New Orleans passes through daily.

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Effingham under the daily City of New Orleans route to New Orleans and Chicago, Saluki, and Illini routes to Chicago and Carbondale. Until October 1, 1979, the station also served Amtrak's former National Limited line between Kansas City and New York City.


Effingham High School (EHS) is the public high school.[9] The new EHS opened in the fall of 1998, and has a current enrollment of 849.[10] The former EHS building, built in 1939 as a WPA project (film made as of the construction) and expanded in 1965, is currently the junior high, serving grades 6–8. The old junior high, Central School, is now a grade school serving grades 3–5. EHS athletics were originally known as the "Warriors" but the name was changed after Ada Kepley, a legendary city resident, referred to Effingham as the "Heart of America" in a campaign to attract visitors to the city. The name eventually stuck, with references in the city government and the downtown movie theater named "The Heart Theater." EHS athletics are now known as the "Flaming Hearts" though generally referred to as simply the "Hearts."

Effingham is also home to St. Anthony High School, a private Roman Catholic High School. SAHS athletics are known as the "Bulldogs".


Cross at Interstate 57 and 70

A 198-foot (60 m) steel cross erected by The Cross Foundation is located in Effingham. The Cross is made out of over 180 tonnes of steel and cost over $1 million.[11] The Cross Foundation claims that the cross is the "largest" in the United States standing at 198-foot (60 m) with a span of 113-foot (34 m).[12] While the 208-foot (63 m) Great Cross in St. Augustine, Florida is believed to be the tallest freestanding cross in the western hemisphere, it is thinner than the cross in Effingham and has a narrow span.[13][12]

One resident complained that using a Christian symbol to attract tourism "reeks of avarice and hypocrisy." Another pointed out that the money that built the cross, which was collected through private donations, could have fed the poor and done other good for the community that wasn't simply "over-the-top symbolism." Philip Coats of the Cross Foundation said there was barely a ripple of criticism in the town. John Schultz, the donor who put up most of the money for the project, said, "I guess you can't satisfy everybody."[12]

Notable people

In popular culture

Comedians and authors have poked fun at the "Effing" portion of the name Effingham and its use in American and UK slang as a minced oath for the "F" word.[15] For example, radio comedians Bob and Tom produced a segment on their national radio show. Ben Folds's album Way to Normal uses a similar play on words in a track that was inspired while driving by Effingham, although the song refers to the city as "Effington."[16]


  1. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  2. ^ "Places: Illinois". 2010 Census Gazetteer Files.  
  3. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  5. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  6. ^ History of Effingham
  7. ^ Life Magazine Article, April 18, 1949
  8. ^ "Life Magazine" cover story
  9. ^ "EFFINGHAM HIGH SCHOOL". Effingham Community Schools. Retrieved December 29, 2012. 
  10. ^ "EFFINGHAM HIGH SCHOOL". Illinois Report Card. Illinois State Board of Education. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  11. ^ "World's Largest Cross FAQ". Retrieved May 6, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c Gregory, Ted. "Landmark speaks volumes". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  13. ^ Clark, Jessica (April 6, 2015). "Building St. Augustine's Great Cross". First Coast News. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Eff". Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  16. ^ Charlie Amter (October 21, 2008). "Small town Mayor to Ben Folds: We will bury you". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 15, 2009. 

External links

  • Effingham's official website
  • Effingham convention and visitor's bureau
  • Visit Effingham
  • Effingham High School Band Website
  • Genealogy Trails – Effingham, IL
  • Effingham's Online Community
  • 360 Degree Panorama of The Cross At The Crossroads
  • Effingham City County Ambulance
  • Effingham, IL St. Anthony's Hospital Fire, Apr 1949 article at
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